Friday Aug 07, 2009

☞ FOIA Ombudsman

  • It slipped past me when it was announced in June, but the US Federal Government has appointed an excellent candidate to serve as Ombudsman for federal Freedom of Information Act requests. I loved working with her at UNESCO and she will certainly be up to this huge challenge. So, how about lodging a reprise of the ACTA FOIA request and referring the refsal to the Ombudsman once she is in-post?

Tuesday May 19, 2009

Fighting Fund for the Big WOBber

Burning Gold

You'll remember my recent posting about the fine work journalist Brenno de Winter has been doing in his spare time, bringing a little healing daylight into local government in The Netherlands.

Brenno has been trying to get details of local government procurement published on the web, so that the resulting transparency can drive better decisions. Since most local authorities haven't wanted to do that, he's been filing bulk Freedom of Information requests (the Dutch abbreviation is apparently WOB) to get the data.

The local authorities haven't exactly been helpful. They have been slow, obstructive and have sent image PDFs instead of parseable data. Brenno knows his rights, however, and has pressed the point every time and has seen great results, posting data on his Big WOBber website.

I got a note from him yesterday telling me a new problem has come up. Despite the fact that the local authorities - like all in Europe - have a legal duty to provide the information, they have started sending Brenno big bills for the administrative work involved, in a kind of denial-of-service attack on his campaign.

He's pretty sure that if he takes all the claims to court he can get them struck down, but to do that he needs a fighting fund. There's an event in Amsterdam on June 11th where Scriptum Libre will be raising funds for him, and you can contribute by visiting their payment page and designating Brenno as the beneficiary of your donation. Worth supporting - pass it on.

Thursday Mar 26, 2009

Forcing Dutch procurement to be transparent

You may remember last September I published an interview with crusading Dutch IT journalist Brenno de Winter. During our meeting, we discussed the sorry state of ICT procurement in Europe and the findings from a research group that many tenders illegally specified products rather than technologies.

Brenno decided to do something about it and started a project using Holland's freedom of information act to force disclosure of tenders. I had the chance to meet him again yesterday and to record another dueling podcast (Brenno's version is on his site) discussing his progress so far, especially the collaborative website where. Impressive and unusually energetic and imaginative journalism that I'd like to see elsewhere.

[MP3 | Ogg]

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Thoughts and pointers on digital freedoms and technology markets. With a few photos too.

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